Kilbrittain 0-17 Cloyne 1-12
A first round win it may have been but to witness Kilbrittain whooping and hollering at the final whistle would have the neutral believing it was something wholly more significant.
But that would be to miss the point because the West Cork men have been well below the radar — with good reason, ever since they won the Intermediate A grade in 2010.
And the manner in which they dug this out against a most dogged opponent at Páirc Uí Rinn suggests they are ripe for a cut off the county this year having been stagnant since their elevation to the top grade three seasons ago. But how close they were to losing this.
Cork legend Diarmuid O’Sullivan stood over a free with the last puck of the game, 21 yards out with a goal the only option as his side trailed by two.
He drilled one in 10 minutes previously to haul his side back into contention after a 10-minute scoring drought and the smart money would have been on him repeating the act and rescuing the match.
But the Kilbrittain rearguard flung themselves square in front of it to thwart his effort and held on as Nathan Wall’s final whistle sparked scenes of euphoria.
Cloyne came into this as warm favourites and even though they were hampered by the loss of marquee forward Paudie O’Sullivan, they would still have been expected to advance. It is, after all, just 12 months since they narrowly lost to reigning senior hurling champions Sarsfields — before being relegated four harrowing months later.
However, they shipped a massive blow — self-inflicted, mind — after just four minutes when Colm O’Sullivan inexplicably floored a Kilbrittain defender off the ball and was promptly sent off.
That forced Cloyne into a reshuffle, with O’Sullivan and fellow veteran Conor Cusack isolated inside. The tactic worked perfectly for as long as they had legs — but coming down the stretch Kilbrittain’s young guns found theirs, stretched them, and in a crucial 10-minute spell (45-55) knocked over six unanswered points to leave Cloyne gasping for breath.
On hindsight, it was the winning of the match. but just after they knocked over their penultimate score — a Ross Cashman 65, O’Sullivan walloped home a Cloyne goal at the other end to make it 1-12 to 0-16.
A weaker team would have folded as the East Cork men came searching for an equaliser, but it was then that Kilbrittain’s outstanding performers stood up.
Centre-back Cashman fed the outstanding Vince O’Brien on his right, who arrowed a perfect pass to man of the match Jamie Wall, who in turn fed Maurice Sexton for his fourth of the afternoon and his side’s 17th score, 11th from play.
It was a fluid move — not their first, but they struggled for that off-the-cuff style in the opening period as Cloyne smothered them with voracious hunger and tenacious tackling.
Jordan Sherlock and Brian Fleming were immense for Cloyne and stifled the threat of Wall — who was having enough trouble trying to beat Killian Cronin.
In midfield, Donal O’Sullivan walloped over two brilliant scores from distance while Keith Dennehy — now deployed as a lone ranger to occupy the spaces vacated by Colm O’Sullivan, popped up with some sweet points.
But Kilbrittain answered them each time, Wall with a brace of points while O’Brien and Sexton were also prominent.
Cloyne will rue a couple of missed goal chances in that first half, but a stalemate at the break would have pleased both managers.
On a sweltering day, Cloyne’s patched up — and ageing side began to wilt as Wall, sub Pat O’Mahony, Cashman and Sexton all began finding space.
That six-point scoring spree sandwiched a couple of Cloyne wides and Wall could have sealed it on 52 minutes when he skinned his marker but had his ground shot turned round the post by Cusack.
But they weren’t to be denied a famous win.
Scorers for Kilbrittain: J Wall 0-9 (6f), M Sexton 0-4, C O’Leary, V Hickey, P O’Mahony, R Cashman (65) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cloyne: Diarmuid O’Sullivan 1-5 (1-3f), K Dennehy 0-3 (2f), Donal O’Sullivan 0-2, L Cahill, C Cusack 0-1 each.
KILBRITTAIN: R Hayes; Damien Desmond, J Murphy, C McCarthy; V O’Brien, R Cashman, D Hickey, J Deasy, C Hickey; M Sexton, C Moloney, C O’Leary; A Hayes, J Wall, T Harrington.
Subs: P O’Mahony for T Harrington inj. (12), David Desmond for D Hickey (34).
CLOYNE: D Óg Cusack; J Sherlock, K Cronin, B McCarthy; B Fleming, J Nyhan, S Beausang; Donal O’Sullivan, D Cahill; P O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, K Dennehy; L Cahill, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, C Cusack.
Subs: C Smith for S Beausang (48), P Considine for P O’Sullivan (52).
Referee: Nathan Wall (Carrigaline)
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